Private investigator Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and his partner and girlfriend Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) witness a televised plea by a woman named Helene McCready (Amy Ryan) for the return of her missing daughter Amanda (Madeline O’Brien), who was abducted with her favorite doll “Mirabelle.”
Patrick and Angie are then hired by the child’s Aunt Beatrice (Amy Madigan) to find Amanda and discover that Helene and her boyfriend Skinny Ray Likanski (Sean Malone) had recently stolen money from Cheese, a local Haitian drug lord.
After Ray is murdered, Patrick and Angie join the police detectives investigating the case, Remy Bressant (Ed Harris) and Nick Poole (John Ashton), to arrange a trade of the money for Amanda. Captain Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) shows Patrick a telephone transcript of the drug lord setting up an exchange for Amanda.
The exchange at a nearby quarry in Quincy is botched and Amanda is believed to have drowned, as her doll is found in the quarry and returned to Helene. Doyle, whose own daughter was killed years before, takes responsibility for the death and goes into early retirement. Two months later, a seven-year-old boy is abducted in Everett and Patrick receives information that the boy was taken by a known child molester. After entering his house and finding evidence of the abducted boy, Patrick returns with Remy and Nick to rescue him.
The story moves at breakneck pace and keeps you in suspense until the very end. Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris are excellent as two police officers who are deeply involved in the case….and even deeper in secrets. But the true standout is Golden Globe nominee, Amy Ryan, who plays the missing girl’s mother. You don’t like her from the start, even though you feel tempted to feel some sympathy because of her situation. Ryan plays this crass, ambivalent single parent with such raw power, you truly despise this woman.
The movie reflects on many familiar themes; tight knit people who will “die with their secrets”, things not appearing to be what they seem, the moral dilemma of doing what is right and what is “right”, etc. And by the end, you find yourself just as torn as Kenzie about which “right” will prevail.
Director: Ben Affleck
Year of Release: 2007
Character to watch: Casey Affleck as Patrick Kenzie.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?